WebMD lists the common signs of labor to include lightening, the discharge of the mucus plug, contractions, water breaking and cervical changes. Healthline maintains that 37 to 42 weeks signal a full-term pregnancy so any typical signs of labor are to be expected during this period.
According to WebMD lightening occurs when the baby drops in the uterus and settles into the pelvic region. After lightening, an expectant mother feels more pressure on her bladder causing frequent urination. The mucus plug seals the cervix to protect the growing fetus. When labor is near, the plug releases and passes through the birth canal causing a clear or pink discharge. Water breaking occurs when the sac that protects the baby breaks in preparation for labor. This produces a strong gush of fluid discharge in some women and a more gradual trickle in others.
Contractions feel like intermittent cramping in the uterus. WebMD states that contractions feel different for each woman and may not feel the same in subsequent pregnancies. Often contractions cause discomfort in the lower abdomen or back. The abdomen feels hard during a contraction and softens in between contractions. Some women experience early contractions that are not a sign of labor. Unlike these early false labor contractions, actual labor contractions will continue after taking a short walk or lying down. Cervical changes that signal labor include thinning and opening. Doctors check for this sign during pregnancy check-ups.